A California Road Trip


We booked this trip with the intent of having 7 days of relaxation and adventure to visit some loved ones and cross this first-vacation relationship landmark off our agenda. You see, the COVID-19 pandemic thwarted our 7 day trip to Hawaii last March 2020. I'll admit my expectations were low for this trip because I was burnt out and needing to get away from our 900 square foot home with only 6 windows. At the point of this trip, I was just ready to getaway. On the other hand, Manny had a bit more enthusiasm and optimism and insisted on making a plan. 

You see, in the last year, I think we coordinated 4 trips that had to be canceled due to COVID-19 scares and outright respect for our fellow humans and family members. For everyone else on this planet, this last year has been filled with disappointments and unmet expectations. I was cynical and wasn't convinced we were going on vacation until we made it to our destination. 

Our goal for this trip was to see a good portion of California, driving my Subaru Forester, which I adoringly refer to as my Subawoo. Why is this relevant, you ask? Well, in addition to making this our first official vacation together, we decided to bring our two massive dogs, Crazy Mountain Douglas & Rebel, the rottweiler. Our dogs are a significant part of our lives, but I am in denial that I am the type of dog owner who travels with their pets. 

What helps me cope with these feelings of denial is that the cost of dog boarding and the house is high. Two, Rebel was recently adopted, and we felt that bringing her with us would be a great adventure. 


So Manny packed up the car w/ 2 XL Dog crates, 2 large luggage, a dog bag with the doggy essentials, and of course, my camera bag. We drove from San Diego to Los Angeles, with a quick pit stop at Porto's, a favorite Cuban restaurant we both love. From there, we made our way up to Fresno to visit my grandmother. 

She welcomed our two dogs and us into her home. Because we are fully vaccinated, I was able to finally hug someone other than Manny! Hooray! It was also beginning to feel like we were actually on vacation. We stayed in Fresno for three days. 

During our stay, we decided to make a day trip to go visit the mountains. We discovered Sequoia was closed, and Yosemite had poor weather conditions and was a bit too far for our liking. So instead, we opted to someplace closer, Shaver Lake, CA.

I had zero to no expectations of Shaver Lake. I didn't even think it would be significant enough for us to visit, but we had committed, so we drove up the mountain. As we made our way, we made a couple of pit stops to let the dogs out. Because our dogs have high energy requirements, finding a place that allows dogs to roam is often a challenge. We regularly seek out public land that allows our dogs to walk and run. We were having some trouble finding a spot, but Manny directed us into a place that he thought would be nice for us to explore.  

We were in rural, CA and there was only one other car there. I skeptical wasn't sure this land was public property, but Manny reassured me it was. We let the dogs go, and a few stumbled upon an excellent trail and green pastures that went on as far as the eye can see. Since it was early spring, everything was green and lush. The cows were out, acutely observing whether our dogs would approach them and cause distress. Lucky for them, our dogs are well-behaved. We spent about 45 minutes at this stop, but I was ready to go. I didn't want it to get too late, and something in my gut was telling me Shaver lake was something to be experienced. 

We continued our journey. As I was driving up the mountain, the temperature began to drop from 60 degrees to 50, 40, then 38, and my most fearful.... 32 degrees! We also began to see white powder on the edge of the roads. Full disclosure: I have NEVER driven in freezing temperatures. I am a Southern California girl that has a self-determined freezing temperature of about 72 degrees. Anything below that is unlivable. 

Thankfully, Manny has experience in these types of weather conditions and took over from there. As we inched up the mountain, we found ourselves in the clouds. Snow was everywhere, it was picturesque and something I've never seen before. I felt I had found myself in a classic Christmas movie. There have only been three other instances where I have seen snow. We found a safe spot to get out and let the dogs play. I tried to join the dogs when I found myself knee-deep in snow and sopping wet. Oh, Joy! 

At this point, we realized we did NOT prepare for this weather. I was wearing a rain jacket and rain boots while manny was in some other men's boots. While we were unprepared, we continued to make the best out of it, regardless. We made our way to a Shaver Lake campground site and decided to do some exploring. 

The lake was overcast, the other side of the lake blocked by the clouds. It was cold, but since we made it this way, we continued on our path. We decided to leave the dogs in the car so that we could go take photos without distractions. Pictures don't do the lake justice. It was a sight to be seen. The most fascinating bit is that we were on a beach with sand, and a few inches away was snow-covered land. We frolicked and played while memories were made. 

Onto the next place 

The next stop was Sacramento. This was a 24hr trip to simply say hello to my nearest and dearest friends who had their first baby. This was a treat because I missed milestones of their journey, from baby shower and birth. So this part of the trip was strictly focused on that.

We stayed at a dog-friendly hotel, the Residence Inn, Marriot in Folsom. By this time, Manny and I were starting to feel rundown from our trip. We were enjoying ourselves, but our dogs proved to be more high maintenance than we had realized. Because we were on the road for so long, we often needed to dedicate time to walking them or finding places to run off-leash. Our bodies were recovering from Daylight Savings, and because I had to teach, I was mentally exhausted.  

Our initial agenda included going to Sacramento, driving to Monterey for a day or so, then heading down to Cambria, and eventually making our way to San Diego. As we laid awake in our hotel, staring at the ceiling, I asked Manny if he was on the same page about eliminating the Cambria portion of our trip. He seemed relieved that I had asked, so we opted to extend our Monterey trip by an extra day. 

So the following day, we packed up our car, had a last-minute breakfast at the Purple Place with our friends, and made our way to Monterey, CA.

Photo of us with said friends + baby! =]

A Biking Disaster

It was my great idea to rent bicycles for us to travel the 17-mile Scenic Drive in Pebble Beach. We swapped the dog crates from our car with our rented bikes and gear. I brought along my 40 lb camera bag. Let me state that I have not been active since the entire pandemic. There was a point in my life where I could bike 40 miles, and for some reason, I believed that this was still possible. 

Little did I know what I was about to endure. We started from our inn, and within minutes, I was winded. I thought this may be a bad idea but settled on the idea that I was just warming up. Manny, on the other hand, is in shape, hikes, hunts, and exercises frequently. He had no issues. As he laughed at me, I was more insistent on continuing with our plans. As we made our way through Pebble Beach, I realized that I bit off more than I could chew. This was not going to be a leisurely bike ride. 

My Instagram page goes into more detail about what happened. I overcommitted long story short, was sore, tired, and exhausted, and only made it 7 miles. I cried and told Manny it was time to turn back. Thankfully, Manny understood. While I struggled on my way back, I wallowed in my pride. I was relieved to know that while this journey had been more than I bargained for, I knew I had taken some beautiful shots.